- - Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Malawi expels UK envoy for criticizing leadership

LILONGWE | Malawi has expelled the British envoy to the southern African country after he criticized its leadership as autocratic in a leaked diplomatic cable, a government spokesman said on Wednesday.

The move defied warnings from London and will strain ties between Malawi and its former colonial ruler, a major aid donor to the poor country, which faces a freeze in foreign assistance over its hostility to homosexuals and a media crackdown.

British High Commissioner Fergus Cochrane-Dyet was given a formal letter of expulsion on Tuesday night, government spokesman Vuwa Kaunda told Reuters.

“Government has decided to expel High Commissioner Fergus Cochrane-Dyet because the tone in the leaked cable was not diplomatic. … Government has lost confidence in him,” he said.


Gbagbo probe opened on rights abuses

ABIDJAN | Ivory Coast has launched a criminal probe against former president Laurent Gbagbo, his wife Simone and 100 close associates over alleged human rights abuses, a government spokesman said on Wednesday.

The investigation comes two weeks after Mr. Gbagbo was ousted from power by forces loyal to his successor Alassane Ouattara, backed by French and U.N. troops who were deployed to help end a four-month power struggle in which more than 1,500 were killed.

Banks were preparing to open their doors for the first time in weeks on Thursday, while the cocoa sector in the world’s top grower was making arrangements to resume exports frozen by a de facto embargo that has sent world prices to record highs.

But in a sign of continued tensions, residents in the main city Abidjan reported sporadic fighting with heavy and automatic weapons as Mr. Ouattara’s troops battled with rival insurgents.

“A preliminary investigation has been opened against Laurent Gbagbo, his wife and his entourage,” said government spokesman Patrick Achi. “I cannot say what the main charges are. That is the task of the courts.”


Protesters torch mayor’s office, police base

OUAGADOUGOU | New violent protests erupted Wednesday in a flashpoint town in Burkina Faso as angry shopkeepers and students set fire to the mayor’s home and a police headquarters.

Witnesses said that a mob had set fire to the buildings in the town of Koudougou to protest a decision by the local mayor, Seydou Zagre, to close some 40 shops which had failed to pay local taxes.

As well as torching Mr. Zagre’s offices and the local municipal police headquarters, they also set a local investment office ablaze.

Residents said that several hundred people then joined a march through Koudougou, their ranks swelled by groups of students.


Government lifts taxes on food, fuel in emergency

NAIROBI | Prime Minister Raila Odinga on Wednesday promised to remove taxes on corn and wheat imports to cushion citizens from the effects of rising global food prices.

He also told parliament that the government wants to remove all taxes on kerosene, the main fuel used for cooking in Kenya.

Mr. Odinga said the high cost of petroleum products, caused by the turmoil in parts of the Middle East and North Africa, has led to a high inflation rate in the country.

Wednesday’s announcement came three days after the Kenya Red Cross reported that four people died of hunger in the country’s Kenya’s drought-stricken north.



NDJAMENA | The leader of an African Union observer mission in Chad said Wednesday that presidential elections conformed to international standards, despite a boycott by the political opposition.

“The organization and running of the presidential election of April 25, 2011, conformed to national legal and regulatory requirements, as well as international standards,” said Ibrahim Boukar Keita, a former prime minister of Mali.

President Idriss Deby Itno is virtually assured of extending his 21-year rule, as votes are counted from Monday’s election.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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